BEACON Practicals

Alphabitacally, you can find all information you need. Please don't hesitate to reach out to BEACON organisers if you need more information.

During the conference it will probably be the start of the dry season, so the pollen count should be low. If you suffer from allergies, please talk to a specialist and inform the course organisers (the Canary Island flora is peculiar). Also, inform us about any food allergies you have.

Banks “Bancos” and savings banks”Cajas” are spread across the whole island. Opening times: Mon-Fri 08:30  to 14:00, Thu also 16:30 – 19:45 There is a branch of La Caixa in the main village of (Los Canarios) Fuencaliente in Calle de los Canarios 76 (main road). A cash machine is located in the Central Hall of the conference hotel.

If you want to bring some very early career astrobiologists, there is an international kids’ club at the venue (for children aged 4-12). We also plan to organise some baby sitting if needed. Please inform the organisers in case you need childcare.

The climate in La Palma is generally very pleasant. The trade wind (vento alisio) has a cooling influence, so very hot days are rare (if there is no “sureste” wind bringing hot air from Africa). In April, the average temperature reaches up to a high of 22°C (that’s about 72°F) during the day and dips no lower than 16°C (about 61°F) in the evenings. During this month, the average monthly rain is only around 20 mm (3 rainy days) and there are about 8 hours of average daily sunshine. Bring your umbrella and a light raincoat in case of occasional showers. Due to the trade wind and the topographic profile of La Palma, the eastern side is more humid and less sunny than the western one (where the venue is situated). This can be dramatic. You might leave Sta Cruz for Los Llanos in cloudy weather, going up to the Los Cumbres you pass through rain, and emerging from the tunnel on the western side you end up in blazing sunshine. Thus, if you stay for a holiday, it is better to look for accommodation on the leeward (western side), where the conference hotel is located. Sometimes the trade wind forms cloud cascades at the western side of the Cumbres range, the Cascada de nubes.

During the conference  we will have a walk around the Teneguia Lava field and,other volcanic areas. These are mostly A’a lava (or “apalhraun”, in Spanish called “Malpaises”). Stumbling there and scratching your hands on the (very sharp) lava is definitely no fun and leaves painful wounds. Thus, you have to have apt equipment. Furthermore,the sun is VERY intense and sun protection is a must. Also note that there are strong altitude differences at La Palma, which bring about temperature differences. Nights on the Roque des Muchachos can be quite cold. Please make sure that you have the following items with you:

  • Walking boots covering your ankles. Trainers with good profile are OK, but not the best choice .
  • Walking gloves are a must if you want to join the volcano walk. Gardening gloves are OK (but are a bit clumsy in the long run), whereas rubber washing-up gloves or lab gloves are NOT an option.
  • Sturdy trousers and shirt with sleeves.
  • Sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Strong sun screen.
  • Umbrella and/or light rain coat (Usually the weather is fine in April, but there might be the odd short, but intense, afternoon shower).
  • Jacket (Please note that the observatories are at 2400m altitude. This means it is much colder up there than at the venue)
  • Gloves
  • Swimwear
  • Tablets against motion sickness (if you get it easily). Roads at La Palma are very curvy

Gloves (like e-tip gloves) are a must if you want to join the volcano walk. Gardening gloves are OK (but are a bit clumsy in the long run), whereas rubber washing-up gloves are NOT an option. Since the sun is very intense, a STRONG sun screen is an absolute must and a sunhat is a VERY good idea. Finally: Do not forget your swimwear!

La Palma is a very safe place. The most common problems to hit foreigners are pickpocketing. Also, sometimes thieves scavenge the property of swimmers. So, like anywhere in the world, it is not wise to leave your belongings unattended on the island. The hotel offers safes to keep your valuables. Fortunately, annoying time-sharing salesmen and street peddlars are fairly uncommon in La Palma.

Please note that the Canary Islands are an off-shore region of the EU. Thus, generous inner EU rules on the import of liquour or tobacco do not apply. Take this into account when bringing home souvenirs. Infos about the max amounts of articles brought from and to Canary Island can be found here.

In general, Spanish people (especially those of the older generation) tend to be a bit more formal than other Europeans. Several special things are worth while to remember:


  • Always treat older people respectfully. Relinquish your seat immediately for older persons in public transport vehicles.
  • Accept a more relaxed attitude towards time. The word “mañana” often does not mean “tomorrow” (the literal translation), but “not today”.
  • Expect red tape to take some time. This includes visa applications.
  • Accept that people stand very close when talking and that some people talk much with their hands (especially men).
  • Carry some change with you for using the bathrooms.
  • Be modest in your conversations.
  • Tip generously for good service. Wages of personnel are not that high.


  • Pick fruits from trees. This especialy holds for bananas. If you remove one banana from a tree, the whole stalk cannot be used any longer.
  • Wear swimwear outside beach or pool areas (especially not in high streets).
  • Wear shorts in restaurants.
  • Complain about people smoking in your presence (unless you have strong medical reasons to do so).
  • Wear light clothes in churches. Also, dirty T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops in city centres will mark you as an unsophisticated tourist.
  • Sit down at the restaurant table with other people. Usually, people dining together share the bill in Spain.
  • Start conversations about the Spanish Civil War and the Franco era. There are still a lot of unhealed wounds from that time.
  • Do not address people with forenames until being asked to do so or someone presents himself with her/his forenames only. Young people, as everywhere, are much more relaxed about this issue.
  • Yawn, blow your nose, or stretch in public (considered rude).
  • Be impatient.

Driving in La Palma is more challenging than you think. Roads are curvy, streets in villages often narrow and road rules sometimes not adhered too well. Visitors riding or driving in Spain must have reached the minimum ages laid down for residents of Spain even if they are qualified to drive at a lower age in their country of residence. Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised but not required. Overall, Spanish road rules apply. Speed limits outside built-up areas are 120 km/h on dual carriageway roads, 100 km/h on roads with more than one lane per direction and 90 km/h at ordinary roads. Inside built-up areas limit is 50 km/h.

DO NOT drink alcohol before and during driving. The legal limit of alcohol in the blood is 0.05 % and drink-driving is punished by heavy fines, confiscation of licence and/or imprisonment.

Parking is a problem in La Palma (especially in the cities of Sta. Cruz and Los Llanos, in the coutryside it can be less of an issue). The blue parking zone (“zona azul” or “zona O.R.A.”) is indicated by signs. The maximum parking period is usually two hours during the day; there is no parking limit between 20:00 and 08:00 hours, depending on local dispositions. In the “yellow zones” parking is forbidden. Parking places with fees exist. Vehicles parked during the night on inadequately lit streets must have their side lights illuminated. Incorrect parking can cost you up to EUR 100,-.

112 is the general emergency line throughout the European Union (similar to 911 in the U.S.) The number can be dialed from any phone, and the call is free. Alongside 112, the following emergency numbers are available:

  • 062: Guardia civil
  • 091: Police (for reporting more grave crimes)
  • 061: Health emergencies
  • 080: Fire fighters
  • 092: Local police (for lesser crimes like theft and accidents)
  • 900202202 Maritime Sea Rescue

Canary Island cuisine is very special and different from the mainland Spanish one. The cuisine of La Palma is a mixture of some native (Benahoare) elements, as well as Spanish, African and Latin American foods. Historically, the islands were the first stop on Spanish soil as ships returned from the Americas, and thus they began growing and incorporating foods from there into their diet. Examples are potatoes, beans, tomatoes, avocados, papaya, maize and cocoa. Other foods from around the globe were brought to the islands by sailors, and as a result the banana (of Asian origin) became a staple diet, where it is served in many different ways. Not, surprisingly, fish is an important ingredient also. Almonds have been an important export commodity of La Palma once and desserts containing almonds are popular. Some typical Canary dishes are:

  • Puchero canario (Canarien stew made of pumpkin, cabbage, sweet potatoes, pork and beef). The broth of the stew is drained off and eaten as a soup for a first course, while the second course is the meat and vegetables from the stew.
  • Papas Arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes), the classical Canary Island side dish consisting of small potatoes boiled in salt water until soft, leaving the potatoes with wrinkles and a salty crust.
  • Mojos (sauces). The two most common types are the hot mojo picon (red pepper sauce, made from dried red peppers) and the mild mojo verde (green sauce, which can be made from coriander, cilantro or parsley).
  • Conejo al salmorejo (rabbit stew with tomatoes,eaten with papas arrugadas).
  • Bienmesabe (literally “tastes nice to me”) an almond cream dessert made of honey, ground almonds, cinnamon and egg yolks.

The Malvasian sweet white wines from La Palma were very popular during the 16th and 17th century. They, unfortunately, fell out of fashion in the 1700’s and sweet wines produced in France and Portugal became popular. Nevertheless, they are very good, especially those produced close to the conference venue. Another La Palma speciality is Vino de Tea (red wine aged in Canary Pine wood barrels). The islands also have their own local drinks, such as banana liqueur, or honeyed rum. Tropical, Dorada and Reina are examples of the locally produced beers of the Canary Islands. There is even a microbrewery on La Palma, the Cervecería Isla Verde in El Jesús (Tijarafe). The tap water in La Palma is generally fit to drink, people with stomaches that get easily upset should confine themselves to bottled water though.

Generally, Spaniards eat very late. Lunch can be as late as 15:00 and 16:00, dinners as late as 22:00. So many restaurants have two busy periods – one for the tourists and one for the locals.

Spain is an associate member of the Schengen agreement which exempts travelers from regular personal border controls between 13 European Union (EU) countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden), Switzerland and two European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Norway and Iceland). People living in Great Britain and Ireland are subject to personal border controls upon entry to the Schengen area. Border controls can, however be imposed on travellers from all states. So, if you are a citizen of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: you will just need a valid passport or ID card.

A list of countries whose citizens DO NOT need a visa to visit Spain can be found under list II here. This includes the US, New Zealand and Australia. If you need a visa (countries are listed under list I here), please start the paperwork AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Information about obtaining Schengen visa can be obtained here. For all further infos please check the website of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Wifi is available at the hotel. The venue offers free wireless internet in the lobby. Vouchers for wireless internet access are available for EUR 19,- per week at the reception. 

However, internet connections generally are slow at Le Palma, so it is not wise to plan large data transfers. And: is it really the meaning of a conference to have Facebook open permanently?

Lectures are held in the “Tacande” lecture room located beside the upper court at the back of the main building. Walk out at the back exit of the lobby. On the left you see a staircase up, walk up to the upper court. Leaving the staircase, turn left. The lecture room is at the back right (eastern) corner of the place.

Albeit less overrun than other places in the Canaries, La Palma is a tourist island, so English (and German) is widely spoken. There are lots of German and Dutch expatriates on the island. You will find it easy to pick up some important basic phrases in Spanish. People who studied only a bit of Spanish might find conversations difficult, since the dialect of the Canary Islands is somewhat special (lots of Latin American words) and some people tend to talk very fast.

There are no coin-operated self service launderettes in Los Canarios, but the hotel offers a laundry service.

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners will be in the dining rooms “Taburiente” and/or “La Choza” of the hotel. They are located on the first floor of the main building. Walk out at the back exit of the lobby. On the left you see a staircase up, walk up to the upper court. Leaving the staircase, turn left. The restaurant is on the right (opposite the shop).

Meals are included in the full board and coffee breaks in the registration fee. A drink package (including wine, beer, juice, sodas  mineral water)  is available for EUR 4,- per day at the reception.

In case of emergency, call 112 (general emergency). There is a Health Centre (Centro de Salud) in Los Llanos c/ Angélica Luis Acosta, 2, 38760 – Los Llanos de Aridane, Tel: 012 / 922 40 30 70. The hospital is in Sta. Cruz beside the road to Los Llanos. Buses 300 stop there.

European residents who are covered by a social security scheme in their country of residence are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card simplifies the procedure when receiving unforeseen medical assistance during their visit to a member state. It should be carried when travelling within the European Economic Area, (i.e. the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland. The EHIC entitles the holder to the same treatment at the same cost as a national of that country. Presentation of the EHIC guarantees reimbursement of the medical costs on the spot, or soon after returning home. The card is only valid for state provided services and not private hospitals or treatments. Please obtain your EHIC card in good time before the conference. There have been cases that Spanish health personnel refuses people with EHIC cards until paying a fee. Also, not all medical services are free in Spain. General infos about EHIC can be found here.

Attendees from non EU countries who are not EU residents are STRONGLY advised to get an adequate travel insurance. Otherwise, illnesses and injuries can get very expensive.

Spain has the Euro since 2002. Also Euro coins from other countries are valid (there is a special set of coins for every country, but is only one kind of bills in the Eurozone). Cash machines (ATMs) are never hard to find in villages. The venue also has a cash machine. Fees for the withdrawal depend on the respective credit card and amount on average, 2%. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it is wise to carry cash with you. Sometimes in restaurant the waiter might tell you that the credit card machine does not work, also connections to foreign banks can be unreliable. In small shops still cash is king.

Due to the low latitude of La Palma, dusk and dawn are short. 30 minutes after sunset it is pitch dark. Please take that into account when planning excursions.

Are in all the bigger cities and towns, but also in smaller villages In each pharmacy, you can find an info leaflet with pharmacies that stay open all night. These addresses are also published in the newspapers. Opening times are usually from 08:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00. Please note that Spanish laws are more strict on prescriptions than e.g. U.S. ones. If you need medication, take it with you together with a doctor’s statement. Take the red line at customs if you bring medication with you.

Pools are open until 20:00. The use of the pool is free for attendees. There are bars and restaurants beside the pools, but their opening times are a bit erratic.

Post offices “Correos” are generally open during normal shopping hours: from 09.00 to 18.00 hours on weekdays, and 09.00 – 16.00 on Saturdays. The post office that existed in Los Canarios (Fuencaliente) has closed down. The post office in Los Llanos, Avenida General Franco (sic!) 3 opens from 08.30 to 20.30 hours on weekdays, and 09.00 – 16.00 on Saturdays. Information about the Spanish mail service can be found here.

There is a good public transport in La Palma, but to more remote locations services operate sporadically. Information about timetables and sale of tickets (unfortunately only in Spanish) is found here. You can buy tickets from the driver. In case you are planning by bus often, you can buy a “Bono Bus” card (from the driver or the Trasportes La Palma offices in Sta. Cruz and Los Llanos). This can be loaded up with 10 or 20 Euros and offers reduced fares (usually 20% off). To pay with the Bono Bus card, place it on the reader AFTER the driver has typed in your destination.

Easter Monday (13 April) is close to the conference. Local holidays of the church patron saint are celebrated enthusiastically. A diary of the fiestas can be found here.

There are lots of things to do in La Palma. There are many absolutely exciting hiking paths (Ruta des Volcanos, El Bastón, Cascade of Colours etc.) and cultural sights. Personal highlights according to the opinion of the conference organiser are:

  • Old City of Sta. Cruz
  • La Zarca rock carvings of the Benahoare people
  • Archeological Museum in Los Llanos
  • Wine Museum on the West Coast
  • Silk Museum in El Paso
  • La Buraca cave between Mazo and Fuencaliente
  • Tobacco Museum in Breña Alta
  • Banana Museum in Tazacorte

Tourist information about La Palma can be found at the Official Canary Island Tourist Information. Please note that you will not have time for a lot of sightseeing during the course.

The opening hours are handled individually on La Palma. Shops open as early as at 08:00 or as late as 10:00. and are closed at noon. Afterwards, there is the lunch break, i.e. Siesta. The first shops don’t open again before 15:00, some open even as late as 16:00. The closing hours are handled very differently as well, they are in the space between 18:00 and 21:00. Nice souvenirs are

  • Jams, marmalade and honey from La Palma amd Palm Honey (miel de Palma, actually the sugary sap of the palm).
  • Sweet wines from La Palma and Vino de Tea
  • Silk products
  • Cigars from La Palma
  • Lava jewellery
  • Traditional ceramics

There is a supermarket on the main road of Los Canarios (Fuencaliente).

Taxis cost just over EUR 1,- per km plus basic fee (several Euros). In the night and on weekends they can be more expensive. Although most taxis have meters it is wise to ask for the price in advance. It is also a good idea to take into account that roads are curvy in La Palma and the actual length of your journey could be much longer than it looks on the map.

For calls to Spain : Dial +34 (the country code for Spain), then the area code and the subscriber’s number. If you want to make a call from Spain, dial 00 + the country code + area code + the subscriber’s number.

The GSM network works on frequencies of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz (dependent on the carrier, most offer both). If you are taking your mobile phone with you, make sure that it is able to work on these.

Western European daylight saving time (GMT + 1) will be in force during the meeting. There is an one hour time shift between Germany, France and the Canary Islands and no time shift between London and La Palma. If it is 2 o’ clock in London and 3 o’clock in Frankfurt it is 2 o’clock in La Palma.

Tipping is common in Spain. It’s usual to tip around 10% in restaurants for good service. This is in addition to any service charge that may appear on the bill. Tip in cash. In cafés, you can leave the small change behind. Leave the tip on the table in the tray your bill came in, or give it directly to the waiter. In case of bad service it is OK to give nothing.

The gentlemen’s room is marked with “Caballeros” or “Hombres”, while the ladies’ room is marked with “Damas” or “Mujeres”.

Please see the Venue & Access page for details.

Spain uses the metric system.

All the information given above is to the best of our knowledge. However, we cannot accept any liability for inadvertently false or incomplete information on this site.